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Mental health patients who take Prozac have 'increased C. difficile risk'

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Taking the antidepressant Prozac increases the risk of contracting a well-known healthcare-associated infection, a US study has shown.

Scientists found that certain drugs could be the reason for an unexplained link between depression and Clostridium difficile infection.

Most types of antidepressant did not affect infection risk. But a strong association was seen with two out of 12 drugs investigated.

Mirtazapine and fluoxetine - better known as Prozac - both doubled the likelihood of acquiring the bug.

The University of Michigan team found that severely depressed people had a significantly higher risk of C. difficile infection than those not suffering from depression. Their chances of being infected were raised by 36%.

Older and widowed patients were also more likely to catch the bug, as were people living alone.

After finding the link with depression, the researchers went on to look for possible associations with the drugs patients were taking.

Study leader Dr Mary Rogers said: “We have long known that depression is associated with changes in the gastrointestinal system. The interaction between the brain and the gut, called the ‘brain-gut axis’, is fascinating and deserves more study.

“Our finding of a link between depression and Clostridium difficile should help us better identify those at risk of infection and, perhaps, encourage exploration of the underlying brain-gut mechanism involved.”

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